My Heroes, Daydreamt, by Daniel Moraff

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT: It’s midnight at the temporary UN headquarters on Long Island. Eleanor and I are, at last, alone, straining to develop some sort of framework for a world that has flung itself to pieces. She knows my zeal for international law, my passion for human rights, but she does not know my true passion: Eleanor Roosevelt’s aging body. I meet her gaze, and lean forward, determined to hide no more. “I’ve got it,” shouts Eleanor suddenly. “Only an international declaration of human rights will ensure that the UN remains committed to the best values of its constituent peoples.” She kisses me on the cheek and runs out of the room to begin drafting. I sit back, breathing heavily.

ELI WHITNEY: I am a simple patent clerk come face to face with destiny. Eli’s eyes flash with brilliance, yet he has remained modest–in inventing the cotton gin he has revolutionized the South, but you’d never know it from his humility and good humor. I process his application knowing our time together is short; patent law is still in its infancy. “Gosh,” I say, undoing the top button of my tunic, “I wonder what we could do with all this free time, now that cotton production is nearly twenty times more efficient.” “Perhaps I shall invent a milling machine,” says Eli.

SQUANTO: We hang back from the rest of the Pilgrim tribesmen to harvest the last of the season’s maize crop as the late afternoon November chill creeps in. Squanto offers me some of his spare animal skins, far stronger against the cold than my thin fabrics from the continent. His hands are rough, calloused, those of a workman, mine soft remnants of the noble I used to be in England. As we load the last of it into the wagon, our hands brush. I ask him offhand how the Wampanoags feel about miscegenation. With his typically excellent English, he mumbles that he has a Thanksgiving to host. We drive the wagon  back to the camp in silence.

CAPTAIN PICARD: The captain’s shuttlecraft has crash-landed on Tau Ceti IV, and only I, the local governor, possess the dilithium crystals needed for repairs. In the meantime, Picard and I take in the glittering diamond caves of the quadrant-famous Ceti Gorge. I grimly tell the captain that all this will be rubble if the Cardassians continue their incursions into our sector. He meets my gaze as he begins to remove his communicator pin. Gently but firmly, I remind him of the Prime Directive; he may not interfere with the development of pre-warp cultures. The captain says he’d throw it all away, Starfleet, the Enterprise, even the Federation itself. I hesitate, terribly torn. Worf barges in and breaks the mood.

HELEN KELLER: “I know what history has done to you, Helen,” I say. “They’ve bowdlerized you, turned you into a bland mascot for the differently abled. But I know that you are a fiery orator. You are an uncompromising democratic socialist who dared to stand against the imperialist tide of the Great War when few would stand with you. You,” I finish, “Are awoman.” “What?” says Helen. “I know they’ll talk,” I say. “But damn the rules, damn the chauvinists, damn your blindness and most of all damn my crippling failure to close the deal. I need you.” “What?” says Helen.

BRANDI DERKIN, THE EASIEST GIRL IN TOWN: I sit, my legs dangling out the side of my dad’s Ford Focus, and grind my teeth in frustration. “I’m sorry, Brandi,” I say. “This has never happened to me before.” I want to die.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: Everything is perfect. Martin has just electrified thousands with his brilliant Mountaintop Address; never have I seen him so charged, so sweaty, so alive. Through the open window of our Memphis hotel room wafts the scent of garbage, because of the strike. For one so strong who has weathered so many storms, Martin’s hands are shockingly gentle, caressing me as I fumble with his tie. Many long years have I stood at his side, hoping against hope, through Montgomery, through Selma, even through the darkest days in Birmingham. At last, I think, my faithfulness shall be rewarded, and this time nothing will stop me from finally becoming a man. As I lovingly remove his wristwatch, I start. “Martin! Look at the time!” I say. “You have that meeting on that balcony in twenty minutes!” Martin protests, saying that our love is more important than racism, more important than economic justice and the travesty in Vietnam. I just look at him levelly, and can see that he knows, deep down, that he has to go, because that is just who he is. “Very well,” says Martin. “But wait for me. We’ll have sex with each other just as soon as I get back from that balcony.” “Promise?” I ask. “I promise,” says Martin.

Daniel Moraff attends Brown University and has tweeted these things.

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My Heroes, Daydreamt, by Daniel Moraff